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Pictures from South Africa 2010

South Africa 2010

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Sun
4
Apr '10

Caves & Ostriches


Our original plan was to head back to Stellenbosh this evening, but during the braais last night we ended up changing the plans so we stay another night at the Soeterus Farm. They promised us some specialties, along with good company. Still, we had the rest of our schedule to follow, so we headed to the Cango Caves for some exploring. The caves were the most tourist-filled place we had seen thus far
. Apparently, the caves are popular attractions for both foreign and domestic traveler. Not feeling to adventuress, we chose the “standard tour” which was a walking tour of the many chambers within the mountain. The two more extreme tours had narrow passages and places to easily get stuck.

From here, we went straight to a Ostrich-farm, where we got the chance to touch, sit on, and ride an ostrich among other things. Up and personal they are not as cute as one might think

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. Except for these guys.

We continued to a town nearby where they hosted something called the KKNK festival this week. Trying to “quickly” browse through the huge area, we got a small taste of festival-life in SA with some traditional music, less traditional music, food-stands and markets. Thinh even won a cowboy-hat in a mechanical bull riding contest.

Suddenly being back at the Soeterus Farm, we got treated to some home made curry with Karoo lamb. In addition, we got to taste a traditional dish called a tourtiepokje? We forget, but i9t was liver wrapped in fat, and tasted just like that.

Sat
3
Apr '10

Fossil-Hunting


Digging into the huge supplies of goods we brought with us on the field-trip, we enjoyed a good breakfast before leaving our guest-house and continued our adventure. Today we had four things on the agenda (at least what we knew of). Visiting a dam, hunting for fossils, exploring some geology and having a Braai.

The Gamkapoortdam was a beautiful sight, not to mention the whole drive there
. A narrow pathway hugging the side of a mountain bringing us deeper and deeper down into a canyon

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. This was also the site where we looked for fossils. After an hour of fossil-hunting, all participants could proudly present their findings, consisting of mainly shells but also a couple of trilobites ranging back a 250 million years
. We found a nice place down by the water to have a small braai and a refreshing swim. The girls refrained from entering the murky water, but the guys jumped in without any questions.

On our way to Calitzdorp we had some more geological stops, seeing more rocks
. Sveta promised to write more about this later
. Our accommodation for the evening was at the Soeterus Farm, a cozy small place with some animals and a vineyard of some sort. After checking in, we got to play IT-support for the manager whilst waiting for our Braai. The owners joined in on the braai, which made for some interesting discussions, seeing that the man of the family was an arms-dealer. Most of us gave up around 1 AM, but Chris kept it going to 3 AM.

Fri
2
Apr '10

Field-Trip to the Karoo


It’s time for our educational part of the trip, so we start the geological trip to Karoo. To avoid traffic, we woke up a bit too early again and departed around 6 AM. Breakfast was had in a shady gas-station with an interesting wildlife walking around (druggies, drunk school-girls etc). In actual driving time, we reached Lainsburg in about 2 hours
. Here we had booked a house for one night, with a nice fire braai place. But first, we had some geology to take care of!

Chris had made a tight schedule here as well, touring us through a route he already had gone through a couple of times during school field-trips

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. We had around six stops around the Karoo area, which challenged us for walking and sometimes climbing, releasing the adventurers within us.

Back at the house, we still had some sunshine hours left, so we found some chairs in the garden and relaxed. Midway in the relaxation part, we started cooking dinner, a South African specialty called “Pokie” (?). In few words, it is a slow-cooked casserole with vegetables, meat and potatoes, simmered in a wonderful red wine sauce. Slow-cooking equals 4 hours of waiting, but it was worth it

Thu
1
Apr '10

Relaxing a bit


Seeing that we were on Chris home turf, he knew all the good places to go. For breakfast we visited a lovely French cafe in the center close to the university

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. French toast and tomato juice. Chris still had some things to take care of school-wise, so he dropped us off at a place which had wine-tasting, a bird sanctuary and a cheetah-park. Here we could enter the cages and get a close encounter with some huge cats.

We decided to skip the birds, and rather do some wine-tasting. Too bad that they were out of cheese, but we would get that covered at the next stop
. Chris and Anneke arrived just in time to advise us against buying what they believed to be lesser quality wine. They were probably right. For lunch we drove to a vineyard called Fairview that also produces goat cheese. We got a huge platter of cheese for sampling, and we couldn’t help but feel under-dressed for the place. On our way to visit Chris’ parents’ Vineyard, we suddenly stopped in a neighborhood where they sold dried meat out of a random house. These were the most fascinating meat drying facilities we had seen,and the meat was great. We bought some various meat for our following trip
.

At Chris’ place, we got to meet part of his family and got a quick tour of the place. Chris helped himself from the wine cellar, and we were on our way again. Still being under-dressed, looking like tourists, we went to a nice place in the hillside called the Dieu Donne Vineyards for a sunset dinner. The place was great, and we could cross out Pumba from the animals eaten list. Check out the Evidence section for more photos
.

Wed
31
Mar '10

Meeting the locals


Finally, it was time to meet up with Chris. We still had some 4 hours to go, so we didn’t have time for much more than driving. We got recommended a beach side restaurant for breakfast, which also gave us easy access to the beach. Sveta was the only one daring to take a morning swim. Our 15 minutes of relaxing on the beach were done, and we rushed to the car again. Thinh were doing great on the highway, making our ETA better and better following the N2 freeway listening to Mutunga FM. Our goal was to reach Stellenbosh before 15, meeting up with Chris and delivering the car at Avis. We made it with good margins, and got dropped off at a local spa for some relaxation

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. Chris had some stuff to do, so he had booked some spa treatments for us to keep us busy for a while. He couldn’t have picked something better. we got treated to a fantastic back and neck massage, followed by free use of the relaxation facilities such as a bubble bath over viewing a vineyard.

Time disappeared, but we had to carry on our trip. Since Chris was busy, we got picked up by his girlfriend Anneke. We all went home to their apartment\house in Stellenbosh where we were supposed to stay for two nights. Chris was last-minute studying for an exam, so Anneke took us to a nice restaurant called Cubana, while Chris went to his exam. This was an fantastic place, where we again got overwhelmed by the wonderful food. A couple of drinks later, Chis arrived and caught up with us. This was the first stop on showing us the nightlife of Stellenbosh. Most of the bars in the center got a short visit, of which one place in particular stood out. Think school dances, in the lines of a huge room with chairs along the walls with girls on one side, and boys on the other. We of course loved the concept, but didn’t stay for long
. Most of the other places were similar to what you find anywhere else in the world.

Tue
30
Mar '10

Wilderness


Still in shock from the day before, we woke up and had our standard (but great) breakfast
. looking out the window, we could finally see a bit of Knysna in daylight. The hotel was a bit outside of town, so we wanted to take a short sightseeing tour of the center itself
. We paid for our honesty-beers and got on our way
. Knysna is known for its nice beaches and beautiful coast-lines, but we only saw these from a distance. Trying to reach them only got us lost in between a guy dealing drugs from his van and buying ferry-tickets we didn’t need. Still, pictures were taken and our needs got covered
.

Our next stop on the garden route were a place called wilderness, which also had some activities surrounding it. Thus far, any of the little planning we did beforehand had been changed, so now we were back at planning on the go in the car. We phoned multiple places to see what was available without booking days in advance, and ended up with Paragliding

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. When we called our contact, without knowing it we passed the place where he were staying. Luckily with our trusted GPS, we located the street he referred to and we headed back towards our behind. This place is somewhat known for paragliding, and people highly recommended this spot along the garden route. After a steep climb we finally found our guy hiding in the mountains. He was already on site doing some recreational para gliding, so whats better than getting paid for showing some tourists the same experience.

First off was Sveta, then Bjorn. Then a second instructor arrived, making it possible for both Thinh and Anna to go up at the same time. It was great fun, and the view was fantastic. We couldn’t be luckier with the weather, and according to the specialists the wind conditions were optimal. We went back to wilderness for lunch at a place called the Blue Olive. We enjoyed some local cuisine whilst discussing what to do next. During our meal, some people came over to our table and informed us that someone had hit our parked car. The damage was not that great, but big enough for Avis to notice. We got the witness details, along with a license plate no he had written down.

Heading for Mussel Bay we had a thousand ideas, but no plans. When we arrived it was already starting to get dark, but we got to see a bit of the city before it got dark. There were a lot of B&Bs available, ranging from loud and dirty, to top tier guest houses. Trying to find a good compromise, we followed some signs to a Protea hotel but managed to get lost outside the police station. Thankfully, the officers were more than helpful. We probably looked like lost tourists, and we got approached by a officer resembling Magnum PI, only with a prosthetic leg. He jumped into his squad car and asked us to follow. Of course we did (who doesn’t trust a 80ies action hero lookalike with missing body parts). Of all the people we saw in the city, this guy drove the worst. Speeding through the intersections at red lights and cutting corners with us trying to keep up. Thinh got us a great deal on the hotel by using some dutch tricks on the staff, so we ended up with some great rooms at a low price. The hotel restaurant were amazing, so even that we had a huge lunch at wilderness, we couldn’t help ourselves from having a late night snack of mussels and snails.

Mon
29
Mar '10

Following the Garden Route


Today’s program was pretty much filled and we started out pretty early with a wonderful breakfast at the Tsisikama Storm River Lodge. It was the owners birthday, which made us feel a bit guilty for making him wake up so early to feed us. We had a booking at the Tsitsikamma Falls adventure park at 8 for something called “Waterfall Zipline Tours”. We had a slight idea what this was, so we drive there with high hopes of being entertained to the fullest. Upon arrival we got suited up for adventure, and with our trusty cameras in hand, we started our zipline tour.

As you might see from the pictures, this mainly consists of ziplines (…) from where you hang and slide from base to base. Some of the lines were steep, other just long, but all equally fun. The whole tour took about an hour, with a small break in the middle for a small photo-session. When we reached the finish point, we all wanted to go one more time. But we still had a tight schedule, so we quickly disrobed our gear, and jumped into the car for the next stop. Somewhat spontaneous, we ended up at the Tsisikamma Khoisan Village besides Bloukrans Bridge. The spot is currently holding the Guinness World Record of Longest Bungee Jump (216m) .

Damnit. We patiently stood in line to pay for willingly jumping off a bridge. We bought our our tickets, got geared up and was ready for action. Too bad that we had one group before us, and almost a whole group before us in line in our own group. We had to wait at a lookout point, which even provided live close-up video of the group currently situated under the bridge
. This did not help

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. Looking at these people being frightened out of their mind made us reconsider the whole thing. Half an hour later we were on our way to the bridge. We got a short security speech, and proceeded to the middle of the bridge in a excessively scary see-trough steel mesh passage. Not helping. Arriving at the jump site, we got more security info before they started playing loud music and encouraged us to dance. The rest of our group was American students, with a fair amount of cheerleaders, so they didn’t have a problem with keeping the mood up. One after one they disappeared into the nothingness. Some of us had second thoughts, some had their fifteenth thoughts. The rest is best viewed in video-form, so please watch the youtube-videos in the previous post,

We used quite a while at the bridge, but had to keep on moving towards the west. On our way we stopped at a beautiful place called Nature’s Valley, which had great beaches. Still in a shortage of time, we didn’t even go into the water, but instead headed for Plettenberg Bay. This was not our wanted end point for the day, but we got recommended to at least check it out due to nice scenery.

We found a restaurant called “The lookout”, which provided exactly this. Dinner was consumed, and pictures were taken. The sun was already setting, so we ran back to the car again and headed towards Knysna, where we planned on staying the night. This was easier said than done. Everyone had said that Knysna was a beautiful place we could not pass on seeing. First of all, it was dark. Secondly, it didn’t seem nice at all. We had issues finding a hotel, and kept driving back and forth looking for something of a somewhat standard. Finally, a building lit up in blue shined to us, and gave us some rooms for the night. The name of the place was the Knysna Terrace Hotel, which had multiple dogs, friendly owners, and something as great as a honesty-bar. Take what you want and tell the staff when you check out. Love the concept.

Mon
29
Mar '10

Mango Silk Storm

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Sun
28
Mar '10

Tsitsikamma is hard to pronounce


The day started quite late with relaxing, and a combination of church and swimming pool. Everyone met up before check-out time, and we packed the car for our road-trip. Our first goal this morning was to somehow obtain a GPS-device. After asking around, we got pointed towards a huge shopping center a bit outside the center. The map we got from the reception had highlighted all the KFC restaurants in the area, so we found the mall easily by following KFC debris. The shopping mall was a maze in it self, so we went in both circles and squares before finding something that resembled an electronics store. We took the cheapest they had, and quite surprisingly it worked
. Still wanting to see a bit of PE, we parked out car near the waterfront. Along the seaside there was a market with everything from food to souvenirs and mobile chargers from the early nineties. We didn’t spend too much time here, so we plotted in “Cape Town” to the GPS and started our road trip towards the west coast.

Driving went smoothly, and under an hour after departure we stopped at a information office for the Tsitsikamma Forest

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. We had some lunch at the same info office slash café, which even had a small bunny farm. The park includes a immense amount of activities and places for accommodation, so we used some time here to try to make somewhat of a plan for at least the next day. With our hands full of pamphlets, we continued our journey to the area with the most accommodation possibilities.

The girls wanted to go to the spa, but it was too late and everything was closed. Instead, we found a great guest-house called the Tsisikama Storm River Lodge, where we booked one night. This was by far the nicest place we had stayed that far, which seems strange since all of the other places were pretty nice as well. Our dinner was enjoyed at a close by hotel. And continuing our goal to eat one of each animal in the world, dinner gave us ostrich and Springbok. Both which tasted fantastic.

The day started quite late with relaxing, and a combination of church and

swimmingpool. Everyone met up before check-out time, and we packed the car for

our road-trip. Our first goal this morning was to somehow obtain a GPS-device.

After asking around, we got pointed towards a huge shopping center a bit outside

the center. The map we got from the reception had highlighted all the KFC

restaurants in the area, so we found the mall easily by following KFC debris.

The shopping mall was a maze in it self, so we went in both circles and squares

before finding something that resembled an electronics store. We took the

cheapest they had, and quite suprisingly it worked. Still wanting to see a bit

of PE, we parked out car near the waterfront. Along the seaside there was a

market with eveything from food to suovenirs and mobile chargers from the early

nineties. We didnt spend too much time here, so we plotted in “Cape Town” to the

GPS and started our road trip towards the west coast.

Driving went smoothly, and under an hour after departure we stopped at a

information office for the Tsitsikamma Forest. We had some lunch at the same

info office slash cafe, which even had a small bunny farm. The park includes a

immense amount of activities and places for accomodation, so we used some time

here to try to make somewhat of a plan for at least the next day. With our hands

full of pamphlets, we continued our journey to the area with the most

accomodation possibilities.

The girls wanted to go to the spa, but it was too late and everyhthing was

closed. Instead, we found a great guest-house called the Tsisikama Storm River

Lodge, where we booked one night. This was by far the nicest place we had stayed

that far, which seems strange since all of the other places were pretty nice as

well. Our dinner was enjoyed at a close by hotel. And continuing our goal to eat

one of each animal in the world, dinner gave us ostrich and Springbok. Both

which tasted fantastic.

Sat
27
Mar '10

Left is the new right


It was time to leave Johannesburg, but we still had some hours left before our plane left. Our hotel (Balalaika) had a great breakfast-buffet with everything one could crave
. Even after this we had more time left, so we headed for a huge shopping center 5 minutes away. This was the Nelson Mandela Square Sandton city, which even had a Apple store (no, they didn’t sell iPads yet)
. We mostly window-shopped, and only arrived back to the hotel with some new magazines. The hotel had a great deal with some local taxi drivers, so we got there in 15-20 minutes for a handful of silly-money
. It was still 2-3 hours until check-in, so we might have gone a bit early, but we didn’t mind. We were moving along to Port Elizabeth on the south cost, which was a plane-ride that took about two hours. When we arrived it was already dark, so we looked forward to get a GPS for our Rental car. Too bad that Avis themselves did not rent out gps devices, neither did any of the shops on the airport sell such devices. We could have relied on our phones (and expected unholy data-traffic bills) but instead we did it the old fashioned way by looking at maps and road-signs. This of course was a huge let-down for the IT-people amongst the crowd.

Thinh was the first one to try out SA driving, and it took him about 2 minutes to run down an innocent orange traffic-cone. When we finally managed to get out of the parking-lot, we got lost pretty quick
. Switching over to left-hand driving does not happen in a heartbeat, so we had our cute little moments where everyone was screaming “WRONG SIDE!” and “LEFT SIDE LEFT SIDE”. At one point we went head-on to a bus, but we wont go into any details (GO LEFT! LEEEFT!). Shortly after we found ourselves in the center of Port Elizabeth, where our “don’t book anything just be spontaneous and things will work it self out” -plan started to crack

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. We had issues finding a place of our liking, but ended up in a pretty nice hotel right next to the Boardwalk.

Naturally, this was where we went after checking in. We found a nice sushi-place, but managed to walk into the wrong restaurant. We were suddenly sitting in a Chinese restaurant, still wanting sushi. It wasn’t a big problem though, since even the waiter recommended that we went next-door to the Japanese restaurant we originally wanted to go to. After a huge amount of sushi at the oriental gardens, we covered ourselves with some more clothes, and went further along the boardwalk. Suddenly we found ourselves inside a somewhat big casino (The Boardwalk Casino & Entertainment World) and were ready to loose the rental car in a shady poker-game. Gambling is fun, loosing isn’t. The Group tried Blackjack, with mixed results. Thinh had apparently done this before, bringing home – R50, whilst Sveta had a whopping – R100. Bjorn somehow came back with a chip worth R12.50, which is pretty strange since they only used chips worth R25 and up. The jackpot-machines were confusing, but made us somewhat happy. It was a nice evening, and we went home early to have some energy for the next day. Strangely enough, no pictures were taken.